Tony Romo has chosen retirement.
Despite interest from at least one playoff-ready NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys legend and four-time Pro Bowler retired from playing on Tuesday and was officially released by the team.
Romo will work for CBS this season as an analyst alongside Jim Nantz on game broadcasts, the network confirmed Tuesday. He replaces Phil Simms as the lead game broadcast analyst for CBS.
“I’m really excited about the challenge ahead,” Romo said in a conference call. “I’m excited. It’s going to be a great challenge for me … I hope that I’m able to make the CBS family proud with their decision.”
Romo’s retirement after 14 NFL seasons was first reported by ESPN.
In releasing Romo, the Cowboys are relinquishing their rights to the quarterback by not placing him on the reserve/retired list.
“We wish Tony and his family nothing but the best,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement. “As an organization, we did what he asked us to do in terms of his release, and we wanted to do what was ultimately in his best interest and in the best interest of his family.
“Tony has been a wonderful representative of the Cowboys organization for 14 years, and he left everything he had on the field,” Jones continued. “He will leave us with many great memories and a legacy of being, truly, one of the greatest players in Cowboys history. We are thrilled for him and his family that he will be able to continue working as a professional in the game he so dearly loves.”
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett echoed Jones’ sentiments, complementing Romo for competing “to the end in everything that he does.”
“That relentless spirit that Tony plays with is contagious,” Garrett said in a statement. “He makes his teammates better. He makes his coaches better. He makes his team better. He has grown so much as a player and as a person over the course of his career and has made a significant impact on the lives of so many. I consider myself fortunate to be at the top of that list. It has been one of the great privileges of my life to work with Tony Romo, one of the greatest players in Dallas Cowboys history.”
Romo’s decision comes amid a tumultuous period in his career both emotionally and health-wise. Romo, 36, appeared in just five games over the past two seasons due to a twice-broken collarbone and broken back. In both cases, he still managed to claw his way onto the field for at least one appearance. Rapoport reported that injury concerns — specifically the durability of his back — were a factor in Romo’s choice to step away.
This time, however, the Cowboys had rookie star Dak Prescott firmly entrenched in his old job. Prescott had this message on his Instagram Tuesday: “From a Fan Of Yours to Being Your Teammate: THANK YOU for The Advice On & Off the Field to Making Plays that I’ll Never Forget!”
During a news conference in November, Romo essentially surrendered the gig that he had held on a regular basis since 2006, he foreshadowed a comeback season elsewhere. He talked about his desire to play football at a high level again.
“If you think for a second that I don’t want to be out there, than you’ve probably never felt the ecstasy of competing and winning,” Romo said. “That hasn’t left me. In fact, it may burn more now than ever. It’s not always easy to watch and I think anyone who has been in this position understands that.”
That took a back seat to health concerns. The affable and well-spoken Romo, however, is an obvious choice as the next great player-analyst.
Unfortunately, it robs fans a chance to see his last ride even though NFL Network’s Jane Slater reported Tuesday morning that Romo would consider coming back if the Cowboys ever really needed him. Romo was absolutely under-appreciated. A former undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois, he caught the eye of then Cowboys assistant head coach and fellow EIU Panther Sean Payton. For two seasons, Romo held kicks and backed up a carousel of high-upside projects like Drew Henson and established veterans like the 41-year-old Vinny Testaverde in 2004 and the 33-year-old Drew Bledsoe in 2005.
Hardened under Bill Parcells, Romo got his chance in 2006. Romo completed 66 percent of his passes for 270 yards, a touchdown and an interception in his first NFL start — a 35-14 win over the Carolina Panthers. He finished that season by taking the 3-3 Cowboys under Bledsoe to the playoffs.
While the cynics will often mention the Cowboys‘ lack of ultimate success during the Romo era — his teams were 2-4 in six playoff appearances between 2006 and 2014 — they also fail to see the big picture. Like the low-drafted Tom Brady, Romo represented one of the NFL’s great success stories. Plucked from Division II obscurity at a time when mid-level NCAA scouting was not a strength in most personnel departments, he worked his way through the system and up the depth chart. On the field, his combination of rambling playmaker and precision passer fit perfectly with a series of showtime offenses built by Jones. From the Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn era to the rise of Dez Bryant, Romo was one of the franchise’s most important mainstays.
He was also one of the Cowboys‘ toughest players. During his career, Romo played through broken fingers and ribs, a broken back and a punctured lung. He rushed his recovery from broken clavicles and fingers, often finishing games with a significant limp or hunch.
Romo will finish his Cowboys career as the franchise leader in passing yards (34,183), touchdowns (248) and, most notably, winning drives. Romo’s 30 game-winning drives is seven better than fellow Cowboys legend Roger Staubach and nine more than Troy Aikman.
The development followed a bungled trade attempt from Jones. Jones told all 32 teams that they could speak with, or work out the quarterback as they saw fit. Hoping to generate enough interest to receive a return on their investment, Jones never got that far and Romo made up his mind.
This was not the cleanest of endings for the star. Despite humbly accepting the rise of Prescott, Romo wanted to play. As Slater reported, that manifested itself in some minor spats over the last few weeks. Romo distanced himself from the pro-Prescott teammates and coaches and eagerly awaited a resolution. Slater mentioned all along, though, that broadcasting and retirement was weighing heavily on his mind.
Aftershock from this decision could be felt for weeks, especially for teams like the Houston Texans. Bill O’Brien’s club was not interested in trading for Romo but was certainly enticed by the chance to pair the NFL’s 29th all-time passer with a pair of dynamic young receivers in DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. Romo noted Tuesday that the Texans led the list of teams that he was interested in potentially joining, but he felt the CBS job was too good to pass up.
The Broncos, always with one eye on the veteran quarterback market, could have been a fascinating fit for the freewheeling Romo, too.
Instead, we might now see Houston working the veteran free-agent market behind prospective starter Tom Savage. Perhaps the Texans will step up their efforts to unearth a quarterback in this year’s draft.
None will immediately match the star power created by a Romo arrival. As yet another reminder that a golden age of quarterbacking is coming to an end, Romo follows Brett Favre, Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning out the door. He will now have the chance to cover the next great crop from the television booth.